Teacher transitions into work with at-risk youth

Photo by Greg Ehlers

Tomoko Kajiyama never particularly enjoyed being a student. It wasn’t until the end of high school, when one of her teachers left a lasting impression on her, that she began to appreciate the significant difference teachers can make. Today, Tomoko loves being an educator herself. 

After completing her undergraduate studies, Tomoko spent several years teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) at home and abroad, until she was unexpectedly laid off. Eight years out of university, she found herself once again exploring her career options. After participating in various job search workshops, Tomoko knew she wanted to use her teaching and mentorship skills to help others find work. 

The Career Development Practitioner Certificate at SFU Continuing Studies was the perfect stepping-stone to Tomoko’s new career. Although nervous at first to return to school, she quickly relaxed into the supportive atmosphere fostered by her new colleagues and instructors. She also appreciated the relevant, practical knowledge she gained throughout the program. “It’s nothing like what I’ve done before. Everything we did was interesting.”

Photo by Greg Ehlers

After graduation, Tomoko started working as a youth program facilitator with Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS). In her role, she helps at-risk youth find and keep work by providing employability and life skills training, guidance and support.

Tomoko no longer shies away from being a student. In addition to knowledge and tools, she says the program gave her valuable perspective that now helps guide her as an educator and lifelong learner. “When I’m facilitating, now I put myself in my clients’ shoes. And I remind myself you can always learn from other people.”

What does Tomoko love most about her new line of work? “I love working with youth and seeing the changes in every single person. Sometimes it’s the ones who are the most difficult that end up being the most rewarding, because their change is huge. This is why I do this.”

By Coriana Constanda